Laid-Off Workers Edge Out New Graduates in Competitive Job Market Amid Economic Uncertainty

Laid-Off Workers Edge Out New Graduates in Competitive Job Market Amid Economic Uncertainty

ALQ Capital
2 min read

Graduate Placement Rates Decline as Laid-Off Workers Squeeze New Entrants Out of Job Market

In June 2024, recent graduates in the United States faced a challenging job market as the unemployment rate for individuals aged 20-24 rose to 8.1%, up from 7.3% the previous year. The underemployment rate also surged to 40.8%, marking the highest level in nearly two years, although comparable to pre-pandemic levels. This data, released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), highlights a growing issue where laid-off workers are increasingly competing with new graduates for entry-level positions.

This trend is exacerbated by economic uncertainties, leading companies to favor more experienced workers over fresh graduates. The hiring projections for the class of 2024 indicate a 5.8% decrease compared to previous years, reflecting the broader economic challenges and adjustments in the labor market. This situation has been labeled a "near-recession" in white-collar jobs, prompting companies to prioritize roles that promise immediate returns, such as operational efficiency and customer experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Rising Unemployment and Underemployment: The unemployment rate for recent graduates increased to 8.1%, while the underemployment rate hit 40.8%.
  • Modest Salary Growth: Despite these challenges, the average starting salary for the class of 2023 saw a 7.4% increase from the previous year.
  • Decreased Hiring Projections: The hiring outlook for the class of 2024 is expected to drop by 5.8%, signaling a tougher job market.
  • Experienced Workers Competing for Entry-Level Jobs: Laid-off workers are competing with new graduates, often being preferred by employers due to their experience.


The current labor market conditions for recent graduates reveal a complex interplay of factors driven by economic pressures. The rise in unemployment and underemployment rates suggests that many graduates are forced to take jobs that do not fully utilize their degrees. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's report indicates that while overall labor market conditions remain solid, the increasing underemployment rate highlights a significant issue where graduates are underutilized in the workforce.

This scenario is not unprecedented. Historical economic downturns such as the Great Depression, the Dot-Com Bust, the Great Recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all seen similar trends where experienced workers competed for entry-level positions. During these times, employers shifted their hiring strategies, often favoring experienced workers over new graduates. This recurring pattern underscores the challenges faced by new entrants into the workforce during periods of economic instability.

Did You Know?

Economic downturns have historically led to experienced workers competing with new graduates for entry-level positions. Notable examples include:

  • The Great Depression (1930s): Massive layoffs led experienced workers to seek any available jobs, including those meant for new entrants.
  • The Dot-Com Bust (Early 2000s): The collapse of internet companies resulted in experienced tech workers accepting lower-level positions or pivoting to different industries.
  • The Great Recession (2008-2009): Widespread layoffs caused many experienced professionals to seek positions below their previous level of employment.

These historical instances show that during times of economic instability, the job market often shifts to favor those with proven experience, posing significant challenges for new graduates attempting to launch their careers.

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